When hearing about technological advances, most people think of science, engineering, medicine or something related. Yet, technology is also present in a current advancement in the art of storytelling that is often referred to as a digital lyric memoir.

An attendee views “Daddylabyrinth” during Wingate’s presentation at the Singapore ArtScience Museum in November 2014.

An attendee views “Daddylabyrinth” during Wingate’s presentation at the Singapore ArtScience Museum in November 2014.

“The stories we tell about ourselves are what make us human, so any university interested in the humanities is wise to pay attention to this changing expressive landscape,” said English professor Steven Wingate.

As Wingate demonstrates in his cutting edge, interactive digital narrative, ink on paper is not the only medium used to express the written word today. According to Wingate, “Daddylabyrinth” is his 300-page book that has lost its binding and the pages have been scattered. It’s posted online, where readers are able to click through at their leisure and can choose their own path and direction for the story.

“What I’m trying to do is engage the readers’ own curiosity and emotional interests,” he said.

“Daddylabyrinth” centers on the complex and often enigmatic relationship between father and son. The work involves Wingate’s inability to adequately discuss the intricacies of his and his father’s lives and how each affects the other.

Wingate has received national and international recognition for his work. He has exhibited the work at the 7th International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling at the ArtScience Museum of Singapore. He also presented at the Centre for Life Writing Conference at Oxford, the Electronic Literature Organization conference and juried exhibition in Milwaukee, and the Computers and Writing Conference in Pullman, Washington. Plans to present his work in Bergen, Norway, as well as Bath, England, are also in the works.

Emily Short, also known as the “Queen of Interactive Fiction,” writes essays and reviews on narrative in games and new media. She describes Wingate’s piece as “more compelling, and curiously less uncomfortable, than I’d anticipated.” This is an unusual, yet accurate, testimonial for Wingate’s elaborate story.

The incorporation of these advances in the art of telling stories into the curriculum at the College of Arts and Sciences has been provocative for students. They have given Wingate mixed reviews on this new mode of storytelling. Some students say it is

Steven Wingate

Steven Wingate

nontraditional and “weird,” while others see it as an innovative and stimulating new platform.

Wingate said his digital narrative resembles features found in video games and those who are interested in game theory will benefit from this material.

Cover of “Daddylabyrinth.”

Cover of “Daddylabyrinth.”

“This class is pretty much exactly what I need,” said Joseph Shriver, a computer science major who is learning to design video games. “It helps me understand the creative aspect of game writing.”

Wingate said his next-generation narrative course features the new form of writing that merges technology and storytelling. He said you can’t understand technology merely because you own a device that employs it; you must study it. Similarly, the way we write about our lives and about ourselves is shifting rapidly, so it’s crucial to study those changes well.

“Universities are in a great position to show how machines today connect people to the past, but this is hard to do if they’re only thinking about today,” Wingate said. “Universities must be in the business of focusing on both the past and the future to enhance the options for students’ careers and new technological advances after they leave SDSU.”

Today’s storytellers are doing innovative things such as Wingate’s cross-pollination with computer sciences. In doing so, they use digital tools to help understand written texts. While this may seem daunting, there is great potential for contributing to the uniqueness of the college simply through fusion of the arts and the sciences.

Wingate sees potential for a “Center for New Media” in the university’s future. He believes this would “launch us into the next phase of engagement with the world.”

Link to “Daddylabyrinth”

Megan Jordre

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